Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Persians v Celts

Yeah, it never happened in recorded history, but one can imagine that if the Achaemenid Empire had continued to expand, the sons of Zarathustra would have faced stranger and stranger enemies. In the spirit of such weird what-ifs, I give you: Persians vs Celts.

Persians! (mine)

Celts! (played by M, another of the Rilesoc boys. Because we got a late start, I didn't really get a chance to admire his painting and I sure am not doing it justice with these crappy iPhone photos.

 We had better scenery this time, with a cuople of quaint little farms to witness the oncoming carnage.

The beginning of this battle was all about failing command rolls. We each had 3 divisions and on the 1st round, we both had 2 commanders fail to command. We justified it by saying that both teams were paralyzed with shock at meeting such strange opponents. ("Why are you brown?" "Why are you BLUE?") In subsequent rounds, my guys did get a move on and this picture shows my center reaching the meager protection offered by a grove of trees.

 Failing command rolls was terrible luck for M, and it plagued him worse than me throughout the fight. His right wing sat pretty still for the first few rounds. My extreme left wing, which faced it, drifted towards the center to help out there, leaving his two warbands far from any meaningful action. Meanwhile, my right wing was having a similar problem getting commands, but M moved his left (cavalry) wing towards me to take out my elephant, meaning that my guys who weren't moving still got to contribute when the battle came to them.

Because of these factors, chiefly M's command rolls, I was able to fight how I wanted to fight: move to within bow range, pepper him with arrows, avoid clashes of hand to hand combat (pretty much how I fought D's Greeks a couple weeks ago -- Persians are an archery-heavy, maneuverable force, which translates to fighting pretty cowardly). I was able to do this a lot as the Celts moved very slowly into battle. But as much as the dice were refusing M a decent command roll, they were kind to him with regard to missile attacks: few of my slingstones, javelins, and arrows hit, and M  made saves against most of the ones that did hit him. Lesson to me: do not count on winning games with arrows.

 Long shot of the table. In the foreground is my lazy right wing, commanded by Bayazeth who wanted to kick back with a bowl of mahjoun rather than do anything productive.

 M is pleased to finally get his warband into contact with my Bactrian hillfolk. A Celtic warband hits extremely hard on the initial clash, but here at the center of the board, I had considerably more supporting units.

 The warband drives the Bactrians out of the trees, but where are its comrades?

 M's unfortunate division which more or less missed the battle.

 My light cavalry performed a beautiful left-to-center sweep, hitting several units in the flanks and even helping to break a warband.

 My Nubians are going to have serious problems with the cavalry and chariots.

That was about as far as we got that day. We started late, played past midnight, and M had worked a full day earlier so we decided to call it a draw. M still had a lot of lead on the table but I had better strategic position. His guys also had more casualties, wounds from bows and slings that hadn't broken his units but would make them a little easier to break later. Inconclusive, but leaning my way, the Celts and Persians both withdrew to ponder this strange new opponent. They would meet again.

I transported my metal based Persians in this wooden box with magnetic strips on the bottom and side walls.

Coming soon: the most beautiful, newly painted Persian cavalry you can imagine.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fun with Persians

It's been a good week for me. I've met a new group of guys in my city (Richmond, VA) who play historical wargames and when I met them, one of them noted that he had a Greek hoplite army. I have a hoplite army too, as you know if you read this blog. But you may know that I also have a Persian army (it's been sitting around for a year), and Persians vs hoplites sounded like a better battle than hoplites v hoplites, although there's plenty of historical precedent for that and I'm sure we'll play one of those soon.

So, Persians in two weeks, eh? I strategically ordered some figs from Sergeant Major miniatures to beef up the front line. They would go well with the Indians and Assyrians I picked up in the last couple of months.

An Achaemenid Persian army would have had a wide variety of ethnicities,, each in his native dress and bearing the weapons of his culture. To me, that gives me license to sweep together any cool looking Middle Eastern figs that I want, even these anachronistic Indians (actually sold as rebels from the British Imperial era). In my army they became the Indian fanatics, a real workhorse of a unit. Note the difference in paint job quality between the guys in the yellow shorts and the guy in the white. That's my improvement over a year and a half. Note also the purple skin undertones. Crazy but it works for me.

Assyrian slingers, may have already posted these blokes. Hilariously, I almost lost three of these guys in my freezer. I had put them in there to make the glue on their previous bases brittle.  Their tunics are plainer than they should be, but maybe as lowly slingers, they wouldn't have had access to nice patterned cloth. But if that were the case, wouldn't their tunics just be burlap sacks? It's best not to think too much about these things.

But I did get some satisfactory patterning on their companions, the Assyrian bow & swordsmen.
And if you like patterns, how do you like...

 Kablam! How's a unit of Nubians with leopard AND zebra for you? I had these guys sitting around unpainted forever with no real plan of how to use them. I do wish I had one more; supposed to be 8 in this unit.

This unit of Egyptian Sherden is the best looking of the units from the old Persian army. 

And here are some new guys, sparabara from Sergeant Major miniatures. I love the design of these guys but Sgt Major has some messy castings and I had to cut and clip and drill for a while before these guys were ready to take paint or even hold their own spears. 

Eeee do you see these guys wearing animal ears on their hats? Freaking adorable! I had to have these guys; they were sold as fantasy types but I'm fielding them as Bactrian hill tribesmen because who the fuck knows what a Bactrian hill tribesman looks like? They're also Sergeant Major.

The big fucking news here is that ALL THESE UNITS ARE MAGNETIZED. Every infantryman in the Persian army now sits on a steel square which itself sits with seven of its brethren on a magnetic base. Major trouble saver with regard to transport, setup, and movement during the game.

And now the Immortals! Those nice solid shields make them look like they could actually stand up to a phalanx of hoplites for five minutes. In my mind, Immortals would wear some kind of armor -- I'd love to find a unit of Middle Easterners in scale armor. But even in these robes they were the best immortals I could find. Three units with no eyeballs. I almost always paint eyeballs :/ but that may not be the best way to get a lot of guys ready quickly. 
Wanted to give you a shot from a higher angle to minimize shield glare. Blue/white/green/copper might seem a little garish to modern fashionistas but Persians liked bright & tacky and the boldness of these colors made my homeboys a pleasure to look at from above on the battlefield. 

And now, to the battlefield.

 Greeks. My opponent block painted his army, brushed it with "dip" (shading compound), and used transfers for his shield devices. I'm impressed by how nice he got them looking with apparently minimal effort. They're not gorgeous if you pick one individual model up and scrutinize it but in their blocks from a gaming distance they looked great. I think D might have to teach me something about, what do they call it, block painting? assembly line painting? On the other hand, I may love painting the individual pieces too much.

 Persians on the move. Note Xerxes' blinged out chariot and base.

 Ready to clash around the ankles of this bronze statue. I cannot tell you how many guys walked by the room where we were playing and asked whether the bronze statue was being used as a unit in this game. He wasn't. Just an obstacle.

 First clash! My Indian fanatics, supported by Nubians, smash into D's peltasts. The guys on the green tray aren't hoplites; they're missile troops, and what you see me doing in this picture is going to be more or less what I do for the first half of the game: avoid contact with the super-tough hoplite phalanx and take out all his ranged weapons and cavalry.
 Interestingly, we got into a situation where both of us had to retreat our front-line fighters. This is good for me; I wanted to minimize contact with infantry blocks. A lot of my front line fighters (sparabara and immortals) are also archers; his were not so obviously he wanted to be in melee as much as possible.

 My chariots take out another of D's vulnerable missile platoons.

 So this is what I Didn't want to happen: two phalanxes hitting my fanatics. The fanatics held out longer than they should have (thanks to the trait "fanatic" in Hail Caesar, the system we played), but perished soon after this.

 His light cavalry failed to take out a unit of takabara before my chariots turned and chewed him up.

 On my right flank I was kicking ass. That huge herd of cavalry has swung around behind his whole army.

 Still struggling with the melee in the center of the table, I'm just trying to dump as many troops as I can in there, elephant and all.
 My immortals sneak in and strike the phalanx in the flank!

My front line after the hoplites chewed up my sparabara. Those Nubians wouldn't have lasted long but at this point D threw in the towel. He had lost all his cavalry and ranged troops, and even those super-tough hoplites had a lot of casualties. He was winning the center at great cost but had been decimated on one wing.

I ended up winning this one, but I can't hold anything over D. We didn't count points for these armies and I brought a lot more toys to the game. We reasoned that hoplites were better and costlier units than any of the infantry I was fielding - but we didn't think too hard about an elephant, some chariots, and some medium cavalry that I brought, and so I'm pretty sure I had an army that was both numerically larger and built off more points than his. To add to this mismatch, the dice just liked me better all night. D did make mistakes, playing too aggressively with his ranged troops and horses instead of guarding them, mostly -- but I made mistakes too, mistakes like trying to charge infantry into cavalry (never try this in Hail Caesar) and at one point plumb forgetting to use any ranged attacks, just skipped right over that phase. Next time we'll have to make sure that our armies are equal points-wise, or play a scenario that gives a tactical advantage to the poorer army. 

Hail Caesar is a great, straightforward war game,  I like my new friends in the rilesoc crew and I can't wait to  battle some more.